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Everything you need to know about the 3 – 2 nap transition explained!

Your baby is now reaching 8 months old. Naps have finally lengthened, your little one is taking 3 solid naps a day and sleeping through the night (or only taking one night feed). You feel like you have finally conquered your baby’s sleep troubles, but then something seems to change overnight. Your baby begins to refuse their third nap. In fact, she begins to refuse it daily for a week and you want to just give up because you don’t understand. How come she slept so well last week on 3 naps, everything was perfect, and then something seemed to change overnight. You panic, and that feeling of conquering sleep begins to diminish. Well keep your chin up mama because I am here to help you navigate and regain that feeling of having conquered your baby’s sleep once again.

Signs of the transition

Before we talk about how to handle the transition, let’s discuss the most common signs that your little one is ready to transition:

1 – Your baby is at least 8 months old (or very close to 8 months past due date)

2 – You are having a hard time squeezing in nap 3 to begin by 4:30 pm (side note, all day sleep should conclude by 5:15/5:30pm which results in a bedtime closer to 8pm)

3 – Skipping or protesting nap 3 becomes the norm and not the exception

4 – Your baby wakes at night regularly for periods of time (i.e., waking at 2:00 am and playing in crib until 3:00 – 3:30 am)

5 – Morning wake up used to be 6:30am and now your baby is regularly waking at 5:30 am

6 – Your babe is just taking longer to fall asleep for a nap because they simply aren’t tired

Be sure your little one is ready for this transition, showing signs and is at the right age. Repeat after me – they must show one or more of the signs above for more than a week on a consistent basis. It needs to be a trend, not variable issues. One or two nights of bad sleep or a rejected nap doesn’t mean that your baby is ready for the transition!

Ok, it’s a pattern – I know my baby is ready for the transition so how do I do it?

For purposes of this blog post, I am going to reference a baby that is 8.5 months old and waking at 6:30 am. Let’s say this baby’s name is Hazel (a name I have always loved if I had another girl). At 8.5 months old, Hazel’s schedule is:

6:30am wake up

8:45 – 10:00am nap (mom capped the nap) 12:30 – 1:45pm nap (mom capped the nap)

4:30 – 5:15pm nap (mom capped nap)

7:45/8:00pm baby Hazel fell asleep for the night

Hazel began to reject her third nap at 8.5 months old UNLESS Mom held Hazel to sleep OR if she took her for a car ride to assist her to sleep. This went on for 2 weeks straight, and although Mom loved holding Hazel for her third nap, she began to DREAD it because she had two other children to cook and care for during this time of the day. She knew something wasn’t right. And you know what, this mom was right. Hazel was ready for the transition because she showed two signs:

  1. Hazel fought nap 3 for 2 weeks CONSISTENTLY;

  2. Hazel was 8.5 months when she began showing these signs of the transition.

So, this is how we made the transition…

The next day Mom allowed Hazel to sleep in until 6:45am, but she pushed her morning nap to 9:30 am. When doing the 3 – 2 nap transition the nap needs to occur as close to 9:00 am as possible (8:45 am at the earliest), and at least a full 2.75 hours between waking up and falling asleep for nap 1. Then, we put a full 3 hours between nap 1 and 2. Then, at the last wake window we pushed Hazel to 3-3.25 hours. Some days she could handle 3.25 hours until falling asleep, and other days she was wiped out and needed bedtime to occur slightly earlier.

This was Hazel’s starter schedule…

6:45am wake

9:30 – 11:00am nap (a full 2.75 hours before nap 1 is needed)

2:00 – 3:30pm (a full 3 hours between nap 1 and 2) 6:30/6:45pm baby sleeping.

….and then finally by the time she was 10 months old Hazel’s schedule looked like this:

6:30am wake up

9:30 – 11:00am nap

2:30pm – 4:00pm nap

7:45pm sleeping

What if my baby takes a short nap? Ok, ok…you may have days during the transition when it doesn’t go as planned since we are working with little human beings and not robots. My secret when you have a short nap?

- Wait for 15 minutes prior to getting your baby out of crib to see if they will fall back to sleep and if they do not fall back to sleep declare nap over and get as close to the next scheduled nap as possible (you may veer off by 15 minutes, but do not adjust nap any earlier).

So, here’s a real example: Hazel woke at 6:45am, napped from 9:30am – 10:20am, mom kept her in the crib to 10:35am, she did not fall back to sleep. Mom took Hazel out of her crib and put her down for her next nap at 1:45pm (15 minutes shy of her 2pm nap). Let’s say Hazel took a second short nap and woke at 2:30pm, mom kept in the crib to 2:45pm and if she didn’t fall back to sleep then mom took her out and her bedtime was 6:15 pm. Yes this was earlier than normal for bedtime but had to meet in the middle. We also knew that it was too late to offer a 3rd nap since she woke at 2:45pm AND we didn’t want her to go to sleep too early because she would get much of her sleep needs at night.

A final note on transitions

Transitions take time. They can be tricky and can get rocky. Early wake ups and night wakings are normal, so are short naps as you go through the process. It’s best to make sure your baby is first READY for the transition, and at the right age (the closer you can get your baby to 8 – 9 months the smoother the transition). It’s definitely a fine balance when it comes to nap transitions, but with time it will all work out.

Feel like you need a plan and support to get through the 3 to 2 nap transition? If so, email me to schedule a FREE 30 minute discovery call so we can discuss how to work together and get through the nap transition smoothly.

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